Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Q: Introduce us to yourself and your company.
I'm Bill Fletcher, President and Founding Partner of Domani Studios. DS is a second-generation advertising agency with offices in New York and Chicago.
Q: Interactive Producers come from all walks of life, they are a hybrid of talents, tell us about your background and how you got interested in digital production?
I began my digital career as a designer at Young and Rubicam's (NY) interactive arm in the late 90's. At the time our digital team was roughly 30-50 people, and we were essentially the bastard child of the traditional agency. But I give Y&R props, 10 years ago they thought it best to build a fully self-reliant digital team. We dealt with the same types of confusion that occasionally surface in the traditional world when it comes to digital, but from a business perspective I always admired Y&R's approach at the time. Granted, they decided to sell it into a merger of digital agencies in 2000 which quickly failed... but at least a few of the leaders had the original foresight. I was a part of that failed merger (Luminant) serving as an Associate Creative Director, but left when it felt like it was starting to crumble. From there I went to Braincraft, a boutique studio in Soho and held the position of Design Director. Braincraft was cranking out some pretty killer flash work at that time having created the first Banking system entirely in flash. This is 8 years ago! Then the dot com crash hit hard, and Briancraft went under. I turned to the life of a freelancer.
After freelance designing for a bit, I teamed up with my college friend, Jon Hills , on a few client projects and shortly thereafter we founded Domani Studios together. In the first year or so we both played the role of designer, but soon I started to take on more of the programming work. I then took lead on more of the business functions (accounting, invoicing, forecasting, etc) and we officially made my title Studio Director with Jon serving as Creative Director. Serving as Studio Director I immediately fell into the mode of "making shit happen" and learned the art of digital production.
Today I serve as the head of the Producer team in NY and Chicago, and while both offices deserve a full-time Director of Production they're both stuck with me!
Q: How do you stay on top of emerging technologies and keep your team informed and motivated?
With 50 employees who are passionate about extensive email threads on the latest and greatest, I definitely rely on our team to keep me up to speed to a degree. But I do read just about every advertising rag out there, and spend at least 30 minutes each day reviewing dozens of newsletters and feeds that bombard my inbox.
Q: What does your ideal client/project look like?
Full contact: I'm particularly jazzed about a campaign concept that touches multiple pull and push points. I want a client who will give my team the creative lead time to concept a full-contact strategy, and a client that understands the inherent give and take of interactive development. No matter how well I scope a project, we're going to hit some unexpected bumps in the road so all parties need to be adaptable!
Q: How do you educate your clients and set realistic expectations for a project?
Upfront communication is critical. While we rely on a Functional Spec Doc for every project we execute, that document is not created until after a budget and timeline is established. Education and expectations are set when we're initially starting the dialogue. This is where an experienced digital producer can add tremendous value, which I believe comes from years of experience in the space.
Q: What was the best project you have ever worked on?
Here's the straight truth: 90% of them suck when we're in the throws of development, and 90% of them are wonderful when we launch. My personal favorite was probably the redesign of VW.com. It was a tight design team, and I played the role of Creative Director and Producer.... something most non-business owners will not get the chance to do. I think the only reason I was able to pull it off was my design background, and of course having mutual respect within the team. The project had over 80 design reviews, and while difficult at times was ultimately incredibly rewarding.
Q: How many projects are you comfortable producing at one given time?
I don't produce many projects these days, but I believe a Producer should be able to handle numerous projects depending on their complexity. Ideally projects overlap nicely in terms of a producer's time demands, but ideally I'm looking to have a Producer handle 3-6 projects at one time. If its 6 they need to be fast-hitting with small teams, if its 3 then one is a full-scale project with 2 smaller-scale projects filling out the workload.
Q: What does your dream production team look like?
I hate the terminology here... always have. The idea of a "Producer" makes sense to me because I think of them as basically making it happen. Pulling a team together, letting the collective team make the best decisions, and making executive decisions when the team needs a decision maker. But are all the producers at a company the "production team" ? If so, I want 2 executive producers, 2 sr producers, 2 producers, and 1-2 associate producers to lead a 30-40 person digital agency.
But, if by "production team" we're referring to the entire team that makes a project happen, it totally depends on the project's needs. Its a team of creative and tech, with leads from both departments working intimately with the producer on the project to establish and communicate our agency's strategy at every stage.
Q: How do you ensure that your client's best interests are met?
I can't rely on an email thread; i need to talk to my client to understand what's going on. After getting to the root of a conflict, challenge, or change, I'm always cognizant of what they are hoping to achieve while aligning it with what my team tells me is possible. Its imperative that my client understand what is actually possible in the timeframe and budget allowance we have. I always try to give my client several options for how we could proceed, and then back it up with our recommendation. Sometimes this is easier said than done, especially if you have a team that has been burned a few times and is simply looking for an easy way to wrap it up. In that scenario, I have to turn into more of a traditional account guy and speak up for my client. I firmly believe that there is ALWAYS a solution, its simply a matter of finding the right balance to satisfy all parties.
Q: What is your vision of what the next phase of our industry is going to look like?
We're inherently in an evolving industry so its impossible to pinpoint an answer here. But I will say that I honestly believe digital is the hub of all communications moving forward, and its the synergy of creative vision and technical prowess that will define every successful agency in the next decade.
Q: Please share a snippet of wisdom that you would like to impart on our readers.
Digital Producers are not Film Producers. Digital Producers are not Project Managers. Digital Producers are not Account Directors. We're a hybrid of all three equally, and any one of us who lean in one category over another are doing the profession a disservice. Its an art which I have in no way mastered, but I do believe that if you take a moment out of each day to recognize all three categories in your day-to-day, your client and project team will love you for it.
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